Newcastle find fight to gain initiative

PSV Eindhoven 1 Newcastle United 1
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The Independent Football

In contrast to his arrival in Eindhoven which was full of twinkling reminiscences, Sir Bobby Robson was not asked if he felt like a footballing saint in last night's post-match press conference.

In contrast to his arrival in Eindhoven which was full of twinkling reminiscences, Sir Bobby Robson was not asked if he felt like a footballing saint in last night's post-match press conference.

When he returned to Barcelona last year, Robson had been the perfect house guest, entertaining the Catalan public with familiar stories and, to cap it all, his team had obligingly lost. This time, however, he departed with mud on the carpet, a favourite antique damaged and his hosts feeling distinctly queasy. Neither he nor Newcastle will mind.

It may have been the red-and-white striped shirts but often the atmosphere, soured by Titus Bramble's escape after an ugly elbowing incident, could not have been more hostile at the Stadium of Light. And yet Newcastle, who would back themselves against virtually any club in a second leg at St James' Park after eight straight wins there, rode the anger splendidly.

Last night's performance, against a team on a different level to any they had met thus far in the Uefa Cup, was hewn from a commodity Newcastle have shown too infrequently this season: character.

Robson was too polite, too conscious of his special position in Eindhoven to make much of the result. However, when he used the phrase "The measure of our victory was down to our defence", it perhaps betrayed his real feelings.

His counterpart, Guus Hiddink, was angered by the elbowing incident, which happened a minute before the break when in the wake of a corner Bramble flung a frustrated arm into Remco van der Schaaf's face. "If there is justice, Bramble will not play in the second leg," he said. Uefa's disciplinary committee, armed with videotapes, may give him his wish.

When it was clear Bramble would not be shown so much as a yellow card, the air inside the Philips Stadion turned foul. Bodies rushed to the fences, which they still have in the Netherlands, to scream abuse at the referee, Gilles Veissière, whom Hiddink claimed was "not of international standard". None of this might have mattered had Eindhoven's defence, deprived of the suspended Kevin Hofland, who has been linked with a summer move to Old Trafford, not been gripped by uncertainty.

Newcastle seized their moment to strike, exploiting the burning confusion following the decision not to dismiss Bramble. Alan Shearer had twice gone close and they were still unsettled by the fracas when Newcastle broke through. Laurent Robert's swinging free-kick was not picked up and Jermaine Jenas, who is a slender rather than towering presence, headed home a precious away goal.

Matters had, however, begun very differently, with Eindhoven in easy control. Mateja Kezman has long interested Robson and after the way he put PSV in the lead, he will interest him some more. His goal was, perhaps predictably, born of an error; with a quarter of an hour gone, he and Aaron Hughes tussled for a long, high ball, the Ulsterman slipped, and the Serb was in the area. Bramble stood off and Kezman struck curled his shot into the corner of Shay Given's net.

The mistake seemed to weigh heavily on Hughes' shoulders but Jonathan Woodgate, as so often in these matches a reassuring presence, usually plugged any leaks.

Newcastle, who early on appeared lacking in confidence and commitment for a Uefa Cup quarter-final, might have been punished more heavily. Had Given not made a fine save from Wilfred Bouma's point-blank header, Eindhoven would have retaken the lead five minutes after the break, a period in which they played with a driven resentment. Kezman slashed one shot into the side-netting and another into Given's chest.

Veissière had by then been reduced to the role of cartoon hate figure. Almost every one of his decisions, many of which were eccentric or weak, were howled at, and Robson's team did not escape. When they ran out for the second half Newcastle were given the kind of reception reserved for Ajax, Feyenoord or any German team, and it was an atmosphere they thrived on.

PSV Eindhoven (4-4-2): Waterreus; Bogelund, Colin, Bouma, Lee; Park, Van Bommel, Van der Schaaf (Vogel, 67), De Jong (Rommedahl, 67); Vennegoor of Hesselink, Kezman. Substitutes not used: Van Dijk (gk), Do Bonfim, Vonlanthen, Addo, Wuytens.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Hughes, Bramble, Woodgate, Bernard; Ambrose, Jenas, Speed, Robert; Bellamy, Shearer (Ameobi, 89). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Elliott, O'Brien, Bridges, Viana, Brittain.

Referee: G Veissière (Fr).

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